Professional basketball players Monday responded to NBA Commissioner David Stern’s ultimatum to accept a bad offer from team owners or face a worse one by dissolving their union in order to sue the league for billions of dollars.

Basketball owners locked out their players July 1 in order to renegotiate terms to be more favorable to the teams. The league claimed that many of its smaller teams were losing money, probably from some combination of the recession, bad business decisions and rules that favor richer teams such as the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics. Those two teams have won more than half of all NBA championships and spend substantially more than smaller teams while turning a profit.

Throughout negotiations, players have said that they were making almost all of the concessions without getting much back from owners. Decertifying the union is a major step that will delay the season — if there is one — by at least another month, according to commissioner Stern.

NBA Players Association President and Lakers guard Derek Fisher said Monday, “We all feel it’s important to all our players, not just the ones in this room, but our entire group — that we not only try to get a deal done for today but for the body of NBA players that will come into this league over the next decade and beyond.”

— Peter Z. Scheer

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